Fifth stanza: Folly of Sharnatzec
Hao leaned against the trunk of the tree closest to the Ring of Light. So powerful was its light, so powerful its energy that Hao had to lean against the trunk of the tree closest to the Ring with his shoulder, embracing it with one arm and losing himself in the light. So powerful was this light that it bent the seen universe and the material world wrapped and twisted around it so earth turned to stone, stone turned to metal, trees turned to machines and vines turned to cables.
Hao looked down into the light and found himself filled entirely with the wish to let go, to throw himself on the stone-turned-metal, seep through the cracks into the earth as trees seep into the sky through the same cracks.
Hao had reached the end, there was nothing left for him. With deep tiredness, with a fulfilled soul and an awakened soul he tore his arm away from the trunk to fall into the Ring of Light and complete his destiny.
Then suddenly, out of the most remote reaches if his being and all he is, from the Hao that once was to the Hao that will become, a single sound stirred. A single sound, a sylabe perhaps, a holy word. The Word that echoes since the creation of all there is and will echo until nothing is left. The Word of Creation, and as the holy Word resonated in Hao's mind, a new world materialised before his very eyes. In a single thought, less than it takes for an eye to blink yet so intricate and complex and detailed, a world came into being all around Hao.
Away from the foot of the tree closest to the Ring of Light did Hao collapse, collapsed into the gleaming Ring carved into indestructible stone, collapsed reciting the Word of Creation and behold, a world was created anew. Never before had Hao been thus refreshed, thus satiated, thus rejuvenated. Perhaps he died and was reborn into a new world, but it was surely not the case for he knew his own limbs and body and soul. He knew himself better than ever before.
Hao stood up and straightened and there, laying on the ground, so innocent, so unassuming, a broomstick. Hao observed the stick and was curious by it, for broomsticks seemed to be at every crossroads, and it was so peculiar. Nothing could have prepared Hao for when wings of a butterfly, brown wings unfolded, wings that were once folded along the length of the stick.
The stick, now with large, beautiful butterfly wings attached to it crawled on four spindly legs like a large insect. A dull, featureless face of two small eyes and a single crack for a mouth watched Hao intensely, and then the strange creature took flight not like a bird would, but it levitated upwards, the wings barely flapping themselves.
"Welcome Kandra, son of the Man of Time, Legion, Selene, lord of Badra, bringer of Senay" said the winged creature with a pure voice, a friendly and clear and kind voice of an innocent.
"I know those wings and I recognize your bearing, for we have been enemies for an aeon or more. We are enemies, and you are the master of the red horde" said Hao.
"Yes, I am the master of the red horde and we are enemies." The being spun as if to show that it was unarmed, and continued talking with an amused child-like voice. "Are you impressed? My name is Sharnatzec and there is no reason for you not to use this name. I am Sharnatzec for it is the only name your tongue would be able to produce."
"If you come to me as my enemy and if you are indeed my enemy in this moment, then know that I shall be an enemy most worthy of the winged masters" said Hao bowing low but never tearing his eyes off Sharnatzec.
"Ever eloquent, but never have I wished to be your enemy. Before the war, I was also a mother and even before that, a child. We are enemies, but my kind is not your enemy, but your kind ours." Sharnatzec landed in front of Hao and folded her wings si except for having four legs, two eyes and a mouth, she resembled a broomstick.
"So, now it begins? The final battle?"
"No. Now it ends."
As if compelled by an irresistible sense of curiosity, a sense of curiosity stronger than the urgency of those dying on the field of battle, Hao followed Sharnatzec through the hallway leaving the Ring of Light in its chamber of holding.
The sky was dull and grey and dark and the world was dead and in ruin. Skeletons of metal, metallic bones jutted out from under the crumbled stone like spires, some as thin as rods and some large and thick like towers.
A knowledge, like the knowledge one has while dreaming without anyone else teaching him of it, pushed Hao to ask Sharnatzec:
"Have we disembarked on Tiansha?"
"Its children named it Gaia, and this is their home and you have come here through the Ring of Light, a way of entrance to this wretched world. Have you seen the sky? Have you smelled the air which is dead and has no capacity to sustain life anymore?"
"I have and I have wondered for many ages, and I have pondered over the reason as to why the Gate to Tiansha is thus dim, and now I understand. The air is irrespirable and is thick with death and decay, so much that it dimmed Tiansha."
"Can you feel death's cold grip tightening around you? You stand at the precipice and you can not see your home in the sky, Kandra, for it is shrouded by the fires of conflict. Do you know what is the cause of so much ruin, that which even caused the nature to die?"
"Yes, but tell me all the same."
At the answer, which surely Sharnatzec did not expect, Sharnatzec remained silent. Hao seemed unaffected by the poisonous air of Tiansha. More than that, Hao seemed even stronger, more prideful, his smile ever so mocking and calm and beautiful.
"I have experienced it on my immortal body and on my immortal soul" said Hao reaching to touch his heart, "on my homeworld and in my own home. War. These are some of the thoughts that have crossed my mind, Sharnatzec."
Hao walked towards a pile of rumble and picked a stone up, presenting it to Sharnatzec.
"This is a stone, but this stone will turn into earth from which a plant will sprout, then an animal, then a human. In the past I would have said that this stone is just a stone and it has no significance. But it has as much significance as anything else and this I have learned, Sharnatzec. The world is a perfect chain, but not because it is a whole as Guijen, now known as Uanshing, once declared, but because it is indeed formed by so many things without which the world wouldn't be. And to be known and now I speak to you and to the whole world and time, the Word that Creates encompasses everything and thus everything that is, the bird, the river and the tree, this stone, you Sharnatzec and I Hao, all that exists has divinity in them, and everything is as divine as the Word that created them. The Word created everything there is and everything that will come to be, together. This I have learned, Sharnatzec. Love all things for all things are god, you are god, and I am god, and this stone is god."
"But there is only one god and the world is surely an illusion, an echo of the initial power that was. The destructive emotions within surely can influence the world without and if the world was anything but an echo or an illusion, then thought in itself couldn't have affected it. The conciliators have proven so."
Hao pondered over Sharnatzec and said:
"I have much yet to learn, and even if what you say is true, then am I not also an illusion? Am I not like everything else in existence? Divine and all-powerful? How couldn't I love something so divine?"
At the hearing of Hao's words which were the words of a learned, calm and peaceful man and after acknowledging their value and holiness, Sharnatzec dropped at Hao's feet. This Hao is a strange and bizarre person, thought Sharnatzec. Never again, never since the Man of Time walked the spheres and planes of the universe and found the Red Sun, never since then have I seen such purity, such control over the Maja which is the illusion of all that exists, the great deception, never since then have I met a person for whom I felt so much love! Surely he is a holy man for he has walked the Lune alone, he has found the Ring of Light alone and he has conversed with me alone and he survived the ordeals of Gaia as if he is not of this universe. Truly he is a holy man! Out of every part of him shines a holiness which I have seen in no other being since the final departure of the exalted, the perfected and the most venerable Pi Omt.
And as these thoughts raced through Sharnatzec's mind, she bowed ever lower and ever so meek for her eyes would not he worthy to even glance at Hao's bare feet.
Quoth Sharnatzec: "When Gaia turned dim and the sky grey and the very air couldn't sustain life anymore, we have turned our attention towards the closest inhabitable world. At the time, the Kandra were the sole masters of Lune and we have constructed portals so that we could escape this dying world."
The metallic towers stood testament to Sharnatzec's words. They stood erect, ready to reach the stars even millennia later, and there was nobody to man them.
"Obviously the portal worked. Why, then, have you turned the red men against us" asked Hao as her new god.
"The red men are the children of a single womb and we are their adoptive parents and at the same time, caretakers. To the man, all red men are identical in both flaws and qualities and we hold the key to their control."
"Which you will now quietly yield."
Sharnatzec did as commanded.
"But never have we commanded them to war" she said as she imparted knowledge onto Hao. "They attacked on their own volition for land and resources. Their is a primitive kind and much learning is yet to be done before they can be reasoned with. All we can do is control who lives and who dies and of course use the power to our own ends."
Hao has heard all the things Sharnatzec has told about the red men, his smile golden, mocking and pure, the smile that never left his face and never will. And when Sharnatzec has stopped talking and Hao listening, Hao said:
"Come, Sharnatzec. Kiss me on my cheek."
And Sharnatzec obeyed Hao's words, levitated up to touch Hao's cheek with her lips and so has Sharnatzec sold her own kind and herself to Hao, for she couldn't comprehend a way to live without her god, without Hao. Not anymore. Whom she saw then was not Hao, but an infinite sequence of faces, all different yet all had Hao in them. All the faces of the world and all that existed, exists and will exist had Hao, like a thin glass or a ghostly veil covering them. The stone, the red men, Sharnatzec herself, the sun, all had this transparent mask over their own faces and souls and this mask was Hao's smiling face and in that instant Sharnatzec saw the Man of Time and his own smile. Then Sharnatzec knew, like this, she knew, are how gods are smiling.
Dazzled, confused, fearful, not knowing whether the vision was real or not, whether the whole universe rested inside of Hao or Hao within every thing in existence, whether a day has passed or a thousand years, Sharnatzec stared into that perfect, beautiful, golden face that she had just kissed and her soul had been pierced by a divine spear that left a wound craving for more, for without would mean death.
Deeply Sharnatzec bowed. Tears, she found, ran down a face she knew nothing of and who knew no tears before. Tears of regret and also happiness. She wanted to kill Hao and now, at last, she understood. The Word of Creation echoes across time and space and is found in everything in existence and in every moment, and the moment of Hao's death is not found within the Word.
Golden and feathered were her wings where dusty and brown they have been a moment past, and how delicate yet powerful her arms and legs are now, how beautiful and perfect her body, for she had kissed Hao's cheek, her lips, then cursed now perfect had touched god's cheek and she had been blessed. All that exists is divine and god has awakened divinity inside Sharnatzec.
Deeply Sharnatzec bowed. Deeply did she bow, touching the ground with her now perfect face, deeply did she bow before he who was divine and who awakened divinity inside Sharnatzec, before he who stood motionless in time yet remade the world before her very eyes did she bow, before the one with a never ending smile, so mocking and calm.
The last lesson that Hao had learned was that the Ring of Light was ultimately powerless. It was no artifact of legend, no weapon, no imperishable strategy of war. It was a mere gate, a door through which he descended on Gaia, a passage that linked Gaia to Lune. In a way, the Ring of Light has been Hao's greatest teacher and the only one that he couldn't reject even after awakening, even after his own rejection of all teachers. Indeed, true to the nature of all teachers, the Ring did not teach the truth, the purpose and the essence. It could only show Hao the way.
In the end, that's what the Ring of Light did. It has shown Hao the way that he was at first unaware of, for without the Ring of Light Hao would never have traveled so far, would never have discovered himself and the war would never have ended on both worlds.